Remembering Joan McDonald
Archery Canada is saddened by the recent passing of Joan McDonald in late December 2021; she was an important member of our Archery Canada team and the archery community. There is so much to be said about Joan as she has had an impact in so many areas of the sport. She has been an influential figure in the development of high-performance archery in Canada.
Joan’s contribution and dedication to the sport of Archery, effectively as a life-long volunteer coach and builder, saw her become a 6-time Olympic Coach beginning with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, followed by Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, and ultimately concluding as the National Coach at 73 years of age during the 2016 Rio Olympics. A remarkable career punctuated and permeated by her unique endeavour to chart a path for Archery in Canada by voluntarily investing almost her entire life to the pursuit of creating a better system in support of athlete development and achievement.
As an athlete herself, McDonald became the Canadian Archery Champion 13 times. Her first championship took place in 1962 and she went on to represent Canada at 8 consecutive World Championships and the Pan American Games. McDonald was a huge advocate for the growth of women in sport and became somewhat of a trailblazer for women in coaching as one of only 11% of Canadian female coaches at the 2012 Olympics.
While the Olympics eluded her as an athlete, the most remarkable impact she made was as a coach in a career spanning 40 years. She brought the sport of archery to many people throughout communities across Ontario, while relentlessly promoting, supporting, and representing Canadian sport and values around the globe. A true advocate and promoter for the sport of Archery, McDonald touched and enriched the lives of thousands of athletes and hundreds of coaches in Canada and internationally. Many got engaged in coaching and learned their craft from McDonald, including Canada’s current National Coach, Shawn Riggs. She created, organized and managed domestic competitions, including the “Spring Classic”, held every year in May and attracting athletes from across Canada. As a constant self-starter, McDonald brought the sport of Archery to many students and became a catalyst for instituting high school and community programs, in particular for young women such as her program at Toronto’s Bishop Strachan School.
McDonald was always humble in her coaching endeavours and, despite being largely considered the best coach in the country at the time, she regularly took her group of athletes to work with other coaches, who could provide additional input and identify something she may have missed. As a coach, McDonald constantly looked for insights to improve herself in not just technical coaching but also in allowing her to build a better system by learning what worked in other sports.
Ultimately, her lifelong work and dedication were rewarded through receipt of numerous, meaningful awards and, eventually, being selected as a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and receiving the Coaching Association of Canada Jack Donohue “Coach of the Year” Award in 2013. On the athlete side, her biggest personal accomplishment may be the success of Crispin Duenas, who, under her 15-year guidance, became a 4-time Olympian, with her world-class technical coaching and through persistently seeking outside, expert support resources to enhance all aspects of Duenas’ performance potential.
As someone who never stood still, in September 2017 McDonald was appointed Archery Canada’s System Pathway Coach at the age of 74 and was tasked with designing and implementing a program to find and train the next generation of Archers who would be the national team members of the future. One of those athletes, Stephanie Barrett, represented Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and there will be many more who have and will have benefited from her coaching.
She will be remembered fondly by every athlete, coach, and individual with whom she interacted. Our most sincere condolences go to her friends and family.